Oregon Health & Science University

About OHSU Health

Your family’s well-being is important to us. That’s why OHSU’s Health magazine brings you the latest research news, expert advice and event listings to help you stay current and keep your family healthy. Our magazine is intended to educate and inform: If you have urgent medical issues or in-depth questions, please talk to your health care provider.

Got questions or suggestions? We’d love to hear your feedback: Email us at editor@ohsu.edu

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Oregon’s No. 1
U.S. News & World Report established their “Best Hospitals” rankings to help patients understand which hospitals deliver outstanding care. For the seventh consecutive year, OHSU has ranked as the No.1 hospital in Oregon, according to U.S. News Best Hospitals 2017–2018. According to the magazine, no other hospital in Oregon is nationally ranked in as many specialties as OHSU.

US News and World Reports Best Hopsitals

U.S. News & World Report also ranked OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital among the nation’s top 50 children’s hospitals in six pediatric specialties, including cancer, diabetes and endocrinology, neonatology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, and pulmonology. Seven adult specialties at OHSU rank among the top 50 in the country. Those areas are:

  • Cancer (No. 26)
  • Cardiology and heart surgery (No. 42)
  • Diabetes and endocrinology (No. 20)
  • Ear, nose and throat (No. 18)
  • Geriatrics (No. 30)
  • Nephrology (No. 22)
  • Neurology and neurosurgery (No. 45 — newly ranked)

In addition, U.S. News & World Report designated several “high-performing” OHSU specialties: gastroenterology and GI surgery, orthopaedics, pulmonology and urology.

From common health concerns to specialized treatments, OHSU is honored to provide care for you and your family. We are thankful for your continued trust in OHSU, and we will keep doing our best to maintain your confidence and respect.


Breakthrough holds promise of preventing inherited diseases

If you have an inherited disease (or are a carrier for one), having children can feel like a nerve-wracking spin of Russian roulette: Will you pass on the defect? A successful new study may pave the way for future parents to avoid this unpleasant choice. A team of OHSU scientists focused their research on a genetic mutation that causes an inherited heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which affects about 1 in 500 people. Using CRISPR (a revolutionary tool that allows scientists to edit DNA), the OHSU team demonstrated they could encourage human embryos to correct the “bad” gene sequence in lab conditions. This is a major leap forward in research. There is still much more work and discussion ahead before the technique is ready for clinical trials, but the study’s success has created excitement about the possibilities of eliminating inherited diseases from families.

The study was published in Nature.

Revolutionizing the root canal

Nothing chills the soul quite like getting the news you need a root canal. You wouldn’t be alone, as dentists perform about 15 million root canals a year in America. However, a new strategy could become part of the normal root canal in the future. OHSU researchers have developed a process to make artificial blood vessels in teeth, which may lead to better long-term results for root canals. The current method of root canal removes the infected tissue, replacing it with a synthetic material and covering it with a crown. While this works for pain and bite, it means the tooth is basically dead and more likely to have additional problems later, such as breakage. With this creative new research, scientists were able to make synthetic replacement blood vessels, and then inserted a gel with dental cells to revitalize the tooth and keep it functioning.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Giving an enzyme the “ax” may lead to preserving nerve function

The brain is a fantastic machine, but when it starts to malfunction, people can develop neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Scientists in the Vollum Institute at OHSU have identified an enzyme that plays a crucial role in causing that damage. They discovered that this enzyme, Axundead (or Axed), signaled the death of axons, the threadlike nerve cells that serve as the telephone wires in the nervous system. Researchers found that if they blocked Axed, the axons kept working and transmitting. Since losing axons happens in all neurodegenerative diseases, scientists hope this discovery will lead to ways to preserve function for people with these conditions and other brain traumas.

This study was published in the journal Neuron.

School Season

Street Safety

Walk/bike: Students who walk or bike to class should adopt safe practices, such as developing a well-lit, visible route with access to crossing guards at every intersection. Dr. Hoffman recommends child cyclists wear properly fitted bicycle helmets and respect standard traffic rules, no matter how short their journey.

Bus: Stand at least 6 feet — or three giant steps — away from the curb at the bus stop. Cross in front of, not behind, the school bus. Avoid rushed boarding by arriving early and remain seated while on the bus.

Ben Hoffman, M.D., medical director of the Tom Sargent Safety Center
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital
503-418-5666, www.doernbecher.com/childsafety

Backpack Guidelines

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 5,000 children younger than 19 had backpack-related injuries last year. “Placing too much weight in your backpack, wearing a pack that is too big, or only utilizing one strap are all categorized as incorrect usage,” said Matthew Halsey, M.D., an orthopaedic surgeon at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. “This may cause unnecessary muscle strain, back or shoulder pain, curvature of the upper back, poor posture and in some cases, even circulation issues.”

Halsey recommends these guidelines:

  • The width of a backpack should be equivalent to the width of the child. The pack should ride high — if it sinks below the child’s waistline, adjust it higher.
  • The backpack and contents should not total more than 15 percent of a child’s weight. Distribute the weight evenly. Load the heaviest items closest to the child’s back.
  • Always wear both straps.
  • Avoid extra weight when possible, such as having one textbook to keep at school and another to keep at home.

Sleep Schedules

Many children are not getting enough sleep at night. Among teens, sleep deprivation has even been called an "epidemic." Other than watching the clock, how can you tell if your child is sufficiently rested?
Current guidelines recommend that elementary students log 11-13 hours of sleep each night to maintain ideal academic and extracurricular performance. Middle school children require 10-11 hours and high schoolers need 9.25 hours.

 “Consistent signs of irritability, hyperactivity or decreased concentration may indicate a lack of sleep and should be addressed,” said Elizabeth Super, M.D., of the Pediatric Sleep Medicine Program, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Super said families can help children adjust to proper sleep habits by:

  • Involving children in discussions about their sleep routines and the importance of sleep.
  • Prioritizing sleep over scheduled activities. “Busy schedules often don’t allow time to get adequate ZZZs,” Super said.
  • Turning off electronics at least one hour before bed, and removing devices from bedrooms.
  • Maintaining consistency between weekday and weekend sleep schedules.

“It’s also important that parents follow these steps and set good examples for maintaining proper sleep Habits,” said Super. “After all, adequate sleep isn’t just for kids.”

Health Checklist

“It is easy to overlook health care basics amid the excitement — and chaos — of a new school year,” said Carrie Phillipi, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatrician at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. “However, this is the perfect time to ensure children start off the year with a clean bill of health.” Phillipi recommends scheduling regular medical and dental checkups, as well as hearing and vision screenings. “A simple trip to the doctor is the most effective way to confirm a child’s medical records and required vaccinations are up to date,” she said. “And for children interested in athletics, a sports physical is a good way to ensure that it is safe for a child to participate in physical activity.”

Phillipi recommended several activities families can complete outside of the clinic to ensure children remain healthy and safe at school:

  1. Share your child’s health records with school — including information about asthma, allergies or prescription medication — as well as emergency medical contact information. Develop realistic action plans should any health issues arise.
  2. Keep vaccinations up-to-date and remind children to wash their hands after using the restroom or before a meal or snack.
  3. Make sure your child’s backpack fits well using both shoulder straps and pack it lightly.
  4. If traveling by bike or by car, remember helmets and booster seat/safety belts.
  5. Set clear and firm expectations for sleep, healthful eating and screen time.

Phillipi also noted that academic, athletic and social stress can lead to a variety of physical and mental health issues. “It’s normal for kids to be anxious about a new school year; It is imperative to help them manage stress through open communication. While work and learning are important, it is equally important to ensure that all members of the family take time to relax, play and enjoy each other,” she said.

Proactive steps for special needs

The beginning of a new school year is an anxious time for all students, with transitions in routines, new faces and sometimes new places. If a child has special needs, you may want to take a few extra steps to get the school year off to a good start.

  • Keep open communication with key people at school. For children who have an individualized education plan (IEP), September is a good time to check in with the team members to update any changes for your child as well as to meet any newly assigned staff.
  • Create a person-centered plan. Your student will likely have a new teacher, so writing a brief story about your child can share your child’s gifts beyond the struggles. This story should highlight your child’s strengths, what techniques work, and what makes him or her happy and motivated. When I see one of these descriptive pieces as an occupational therapist, it puts me in a positive place for working with a child. Check out examples at www.factoregon.org.
  • Plan/practice home and school routines. For children who struggle with transitions, practicing home routines and creating picture cues or checklists can be helpful. Getting a detailed schedule from school can help you prepare your child for what will be happening the next day or week. Ask the teacher or school team to alert you to any scheduled changes that might be difficult for your child, such as fire drills or school assemblies.
  • Prepare a one-liner. If your child has frequent absences, behavior or appearance differences, other children can be curious. Practice a simple statement to help your child respond to possible questions so that it suits your child’s sense of privacy and gives him or her confidence.

Kim Solondz, M. S., OTR/L, Discipline Director, Occupational Therapy
Child Development and Rehabilitation Center, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital
503-346-0640, www.ohsudoernbecher.com

Living Well

Sit and be fit: Sneak in stretches and movement at the workplace for better health and productivity

Prolonged sitting can lead to deconditioning of your muscles and poor posture habits, such as slouching. Though you may not be able to do cardio training or yoga poses while at work, you can make simple changes to move more and mix up your activities. Find a reason to walk around each hour. Do some calf raises or arm circles. Engage your core muscles in the back and belly. Stretch and extend arms and legs. Pull your shoulders back. It doesn’t matter so much what you do to move; just choose something you can and will do frequently to give your body a break. Set a reminder alarm to change positions. Also, look for ways to add more action to your day, such as parking farther away, taking the stairs, walking during your lunch or even biking to work.

-Jacqueline M. Brady, M. D., OHSU Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation
503-494-6400, www.ohsu.edu/ortho

From woes to worse: When you should see a doctor for back pain

Back pain is very common. It will affect almost all of us at some point in our lives. Reassuringly, most flares of back pain get better with time. The most common causes of back pain are muscle strain and arthritis. Muscle strain will usually improve within a few weeks. Arthritis, unfortunately, sticks around and may cause persistent stiffness and discomfort. However, the following are some reasons to seek a medical evaluation:

• A significant trauma, such as a fall from a ladder or motor vehicle accident
• Pain is progressively worsening instead of getting better
• Radiating or electrical pain down the leg, a change in sensation/numbness, or muscle weakness
• A personal history of cancer
• Unexplained fevers, especially if recovering from a recent spinal procedure
• Arthritic pain that is worsening or affecting your lifestyle

-Micah Bates, P.A.-C., OHSU Spine Center
503-494-9888, www.ohsuspine.com

Your Questions, Our Answers

Q: My child seems nervous about the new school year. What can I do to help?

A: It’s normal for all children to have some anxiety around transition times, like starting a new school year. You can help your child physically and emotionally. Elementary-age children need 10–11 hours of sleep a night. Adolescents 12–19 still need 8–9 hours of sleep. Plan nutritious meal options. Set aside time to talk with your child about feelings related to school. Younger children are often anxious about unfamiliar places or people, and separating from you. Older children may be worried about social dynamics and academics. Roleplaying and talking through best- and worst-case plans can be helpful. Your calm, positive attitude will also be a boost. Keep as consistent a routine as possible for mornings and evenings to reduce stress and keep bedtimes on track. If your child has frequent stomachaches/headaches or severe disruptive anxiety, make an appointment to see your child’s health care team to further investigate.

Johanna Nesse, F.N.P., OHSU Family Medicine in Beaverton
971-262-9150, www.ohsu.edu/beaverton

Q. What are the warning signs or symptoms of a brain tumor?

A. The most common symptom is headache, the kind that gradually worsens and doesn’t respond to over-the-counter pain relievers. Patients often describe this type of headache as an all-over throbbing that is constant and intense. Pain may worsen when lying down. Other symptoms can be related to what part of the brain is being pressed by the tumor. Though similar to stroke symptoms, such as speech and balance issues, brain tumor symptoms tend to develop gradually rather than suddenly. However, if an adult experiences a first-time seizure, it can often signal a brain tumor. Catching a brain tumor early is better, because the options are usually easier, safer and have better results. If something seems off, seek care sooner rather than later. Brain tumors are relatively rare and need specialty care in a center that has a team of very experienced doctors.

S. Jude Han, M.D., OHSU Brain Institute
503-494-4314, www.ohsubrain.com

Q: I live a healthy lifestyle, but there’s heart disease in my family. Does that mean I’m at risk?

A: Just like no two people share the same fingerprint, no two have the same risk of cardiovascular disease. Research at OHSU shows that much of this risk is established well before you are born, through genetics, the health of your mother and even the way you developed in the womb. Lifestyle is important, but we recommend taking our Healthy Heart Family Tree survey to find out how your family history affects your heart health. This unique tool captures lifestyle, personal health history and your family's health history, and provides an assessment based on the latest research on how birth weight, pregnancy complications, and acquired conditions like hypertension and diabetes, can signal a risk for future heart problems. Get your personal assessment at www.ohsuheart.com/familytree.

Sergio Fazio, M. D., PH. D., OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute
503-494-1755, www.ohsuheart.com

Q: I’ve heard pancreatic cancer is one deadliest kinds. Is there anything I can do to avoid it?

A: Maintaining a healthy weight, exercise and avoiding smoking all reduce your risk of pancreatic cancer. Obesity and smoking are especially hard on the pancreas, a gland that is important for regulating blood sugar and digestion. Research shows you can reduce your risk by up to 50 percent by avoiding these stressors. However, some people have an inherited risk, including strong family history or a gene defect. One reason pancreatic cancer has a high mortality rate is that often there aren’t symptoms until the disease has progressed. If you believe you have a higher risk or have been diagnosed, seek out a center that specializes in pancreatic cancer.

Brett C. Sheppard, M.D., OHSU Knight Cancer Institute
503-494-4673, www.ohsuknightcancer.com


More than child’s play: Constancy rewards volunteers and children alike
Nearly 10 years ago, Rob Wedlake offered companionship to an anxious 3-year-old girl as she recuperated post-surgery. The young patient’s mother couldn’t be there, so Wedlake filled in — one of his first roles as a volunteer. Since then, Wedlake has held babies, played board games, pulled wagons and provided a friendly face to many sick children at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. That 3-year-old girl is now 12, but she still remembers Wedlake’s presence.

“When I saw her recently, she remembered that day and how I sat with her the whole time,” Wedlake said. “ Kids remember. It’s little things that make the four hours you put in every week so important to these kids.”

An Aloha resident, Wedlake is one of the rare volunteers at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital with a consistent and long record. He often works the Friday evening shift, one of the less popular choices.
Occasionally, he considers finding an alternative activity, but then he is reminded that his role matters.

“I was talking with a 14-year-old patient one evening, wondering aloud if I should find a different volunteer role,” Wedlake said. “She said, ‘Well, Rob, think of it this way: Every hour you’re with me is an hour that I’m not here by myself.’ Reminders like this have kept me going.”

Wedlake, 55, is a father of five and recently became a grandfather. He didn’t expect to become a baby whisperer, but he is.

“I can get almost any baby to sleep, so usually if the nurses have a very unhappy baby, they'll come looking for me,” he said.

Wedlake said he feels very close to the staff in the unit where he volunteers. Healthcare is not glamorous and is often sad, but he praised the positive energy among the staff.

“There is a lot of raw emotion that goes along with spending time in a hospital,” he said. “You see it even in the nursing staff. They keep their professionalism so well, but sometimes you walk around a corner to find somebody crying. There is a lot more to being a volunteer than just playing with kids.”

After a long career in retail management, Wedlake recently began a second career in healthcare. Throughout his job changes, he has kept his Friday night appointment with the kids at OHSU Doernbecher. Friends are often surprised Wedlake is willing to give his prime weekend hours to participate in the roller coaster of emotions involved with children with serious health problems.

“People say, ‘I don't know how you do that,’ but my response is, ‘Well, if I don’t, who will?’" Wedlake said. “It just gives me a good feeling. Instead of spending time in front of the TV, I’m making a difference in people's lives.”

And it’s far from a gloomy atmosphere, he insists. He has many memories of laughing with children.

Though patients come and go, they often return for ongoing care and follow-up. Wedlake’s constancy
provides a familiar face—and voice.

“Like clockwork, Rob is in the hospital every Friday night with a smile, ready and eager to begin his shift. It’s no wonder that the patients and families regularly request for him, and sometimes when they hear his voice in the hallways, you will hear his name being yelled from across the room!” said Desza Dominguez, OHSU Volunteer Services Coordinator. “The number of years Rob has volunteered speaks to his dedication and affinity for helping patients and families in OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. I can say with certainty that the work Rob has done as a volunteer or committee member has positive and lasting impact. I am honored to know a person who is genuine, compassionate and truly selfless.”

Volunteering can be hard work, but it is also rejuvenating, Wedlake has found. “When I was working an eight-hour day and then volunteering at the hospital in the evening, there were times where going home to rest instead was tempting. But for me, it's just so important to take that time and not be selfish with it.”

Listen to Rob Wedlake’s story and other powerful stories at www.soundcloud.com/ohsu

StoryCorps Legacy, a program of the national oral history project, is a collaboration with OHSU and OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital to record and preserve the stories of people, families and caregivers affected by healthcare. An interview is a chance to ask someone you know about their life. For 40 minutes, you can ask the questions that really matter. You’ll receive a free copy of your recording, and with your permission, a second copy will be archived in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. If you have questions or to schedule an interview, email storycorps@ohsu.edu.


Request reasonable accommodation for these events at 503-494-2834 or hsmktg@ohsu.edu.

Making Sense of Menopause Conference 2017

Hot flashes are only funny if they aren’t happening to you. National experts from the OHSU Center for Women's Health Center will share the latest in menopause research and treatments at this seminar. Topics will also cover hormone therapy and alternative approaches. There will be sessions about how menopause has an impact on sleep, mood, heart health and more. Attendees can join an optional yoga class, enjoy a box luncheon, and have the chance to win prizes.

Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017 | 9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Optional: 8 a.m. yoga class
Collaborative Life Sciences Building, 2730 SW Moody Ave., Portland, Oregon
Cost: $100 or bring a friend and get two tickets for $150 (Cost includes lunch and optional yoga class)
To learn more and register, visit www.ohsu.edu/menopause.

Ask the Health Experts

Learn the latest developments in treatment, prevention and detection from the leading professionals in the field. Light refreshments will be served at all seminars.

OHSU Center for Health & Healing (CHH)
3303 S.W. Bond Ave., Third Floor
Portland, OR 97239
To register, please visit www.ohsuhealth.com/seminar or call 503-494-1122.

Oct. 11, 7 p.m.
Concussion Evaluation and Treatment
With Tyler Duffield, Ph.D.

Oct. 18, 7 p.m.
ACL Injury Prevention
With Melissa Novak, D.O.

Oct. 19, 7 p.m.
Calorie Density for Lasting Lifestyle Change and Weight Management
With Craig McDougall, M.D.

Oct. 24, 7 p.m.
Living With Heart Disease
With James Mudd, M.D.

Nov. 15, 7 p.m.
Lumbar Spine Physical Therapy
With Scott Beadnell, P.T., D.P.T. and Emily Houston, P.T., D.P.T.

Baby Talk, with OHSU Fertility Consultants

Considering fertility treatment? At OHSU, we offer a full range of fertility services. Want to learn about what choices might be best for you? Join us at an open house. Meet briefly with a fertility expert, get to know our staff, learn about financial options and get your questions answered. Refreshments provided.

OHSU Center for Health & Healing (CHH)
3303 S.W. Bond Ave., 10th Floor, Fertility clinic lobby
Portland, OR 97239

Nov. 9 and Jan. 11
Financial sessions, 5 p.m. or 6 p.m.
Meet with fertility experts, 5:30-7 p.m.

To register, please visit www.ohsuhealth.com/babytalk or call 503-418-4500.

Featured Events

Oct. 14
Light the Night
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

Oct. 19
Cataract surgery seminars
Sept. 25, 6-7 p.m., Ellen Davis, M.D.
OHSU Casey Eye Institute

Oct. 28
2017 Macular Degeneration and Vision Expo
Doubletree by Hilton Hotel

Marquam Hill Lectures
To register, please visit www.ohsu.edu/mhlectures or call 503-494-5699.

Oct. 19, 7 p.m.
Sweat Smart: What Sports Medicine Science Tells Us About Effective – and Safe – Exercise
Douglas B. McKeag, M.D., M.S., F.A.C.S.M.

Nov. 16, 7 p.m.
The Promise of Early Cancer Detection
Sadik Esener, Ph.D.


Each issue, we bring timely health tips and information to help you and your family live healthier lives. Got a question or health issue you’d like our experts to address? Email us at editor@ohsu.edu.

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Health is a quarterly publication of OHSU serving the greater Portland area. Information is intended to educate and is not a substitute for consulting with a health care provider.

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Editor-in-chief: Heather Pease
Managing editor: Ashley Uchtman
Copywriter: Cheryl Rose and Tracy Brawley
Graphic designer: David Riofrio